For a cool-weather meal that feeds a crowd, consider a braise. Slow simmered and deeply flavored, it has a number of attractive qualities. For one thing, it benefits from steeping in its own juices; cooking it several hours ahead of serving, even a day before, is ideal. The flavors intensify, mature, strengthen.
The best braising cuts include beef chuck, lamb shoulder or pork shoulder. But chicken is the easiest to braise, since it takes less time to cook than red meat. Legs are best. I like both thighs and drumsticks, sometimes cooking them as a whole leg, sometimes in two pieces.
Recipe: Braised Chicken With Tomato and Potatoes
For a main, I went with a dish that approximates the Spanish chicken and potatoes in salsa brava I tasted years ago in Madrid. But I added ancho chile, traditionally used in Mexican cooking, for a different kind of heat. And I couldn’t resist adding a bit of cumin, so the result is a bit of a hybrid. Along with a splash of wine and chopped tomato, it is hearty and warming with a ruddy red sauce.
The now-closed Puerto Rican diner La Taza de Oro was a New York City classic. It fed the Chelsea neighborhood and fans from all walks of life. On a typical day, you might find police officers, hospital workers, the odd politician and any number of locals. It was always busy for lunch. I loved sitting at the counter for a solo meal.
Recipe: Avocado, Radish and Iceberg Lettuce Salad
Though I was usually there for one of the daily specials, there was an avocado salad on the menu that was wonderful in its simplicity and extremely popular. In addition to avocado, it was composed of iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced radishes and onion. There may have been a tomato slice. Drizzled with a lemony dressing, it was crisp and refreshing. With avocado season in California in full swing, I thought of that salad and was happy to make it.
Recipe: Arroz con Leche With Roasted Pineapple
Rice pudding seemed like a perfect ending for this menu. With a touch of coconut, broiled pineapple and bright red pomegranate seeds, it’s a festive dessert, best served warm. Many rice pudding recipes call for a custard, but this one just calls for simmering short-grain rice in sweetened milk. To me, it’s reminiscent of Thai coconut sticky rice. If there are leftovers, it makes a fine breakfast, too.
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